Here are a few myths about eating:

1. You should never skip breakfast.
2. You should never miss any meal.
3. Snacking is a part of a balanced diet.
4. Eating more frequently helps keep weight down.

How did we arrive at subscribing to these beliefs? So many reasons, but just a couple worth mentioning: the American Diabetes Association advises we eat three meals a day and two snacks. Health.gov also promotes a three-or-more, daily meal pattern. Then there’s the marketing messages ingrained in our brains. “You gotta eat!” urges Checkers. “You’re not you when you’re hungry,” Snickers says.

Yet, with our obesity epidemic and the CDC reporting that over 37 million Americans are living with diabetes, perhaps we should ask ourselves: who is benefiting from our eating so much? It certainly doesn’t seem to be us.

On the contrary, science shows that food restriction, like fasting, is good for us. Health benefits of fasting, include:

  • Improved insulin function
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Decreased aches and pains
  • Clearer thinking
  • Accelerated fat burning
  • Slowed aging
  • Improved digestion
  • And much more

Of course, modern-day fasting sounds a bit illogical. Americans don’t live in a time of famine, so unless fasting for spiritual purposes, why would someone not eat—on purpose—for hours on end? It’s torture, right? Not really, if you approach fasting organically. To be clear, I would not recommend jumping right in. Fasting is an adjunct to low-carb eating.

This week, Nutritionist Mihaela Telecan and I discussed the topic on Facebook Live (watch here; air date Oct 4). One of my favorite moments was when she described the natural progression that happens at 9:42. To explain, ideally, one would start eating whole foods first. Next, that person would adopt a diet low in carbohydrates and sugar and high in good fats. Then, once acclimated, fasting would come naturally.

What do I mean? After living low-carb for a while, my patients often report fasting when they never set out to fast. They’re listening to their body, and eating when they’re hungry and abstaining when they’re not. They no longer eat just because the clock says it’s mealtime. One patient recently told me that while adhering to a low-carb diet, she often felt compelled to force herself to eat when the clock dictated mealtime. I advised her to listen to her body and try fasting.

Here’s a brief introduction to several types of fasts:

8 – 12 Hour: Most American adults already fast eight to 12 hours daily. You may snack while watching Netflix at night and then not eat until breakfast. Given the way most Americans eat, this is not a long enough period of time to purge fat stores or reap the benefits of fasting.

16-Hour: This is often how people first start fasting. After eating low-carb for a while, they find they’re not hungry for breakfast. So they only imbibe bulletproof coffee or tea and then break the fast at lunchtime. (This is what I do daily.)

24-Hour: Once a person becomes a fat burner via low-carb living, fat loss (and other benefits) can be accelerated by extending the fast to 24 hours.

24 Hours+: There is emerging data that extended periods of fasting may have anti-cancer effects and promote autophagy, a cellular-cleansing phenomenon that allows the body to repair itself.

During our chat, Mihaela and I also covered:

  • Type of fasts (water, fat and green juice)
  • How fasting detoxifies the body
  • When not to fast
  • Why you shouldn’t fast without first adopting a healthier diet

Take a listen. And if you already fast, please reply back and let me know what works for you.

For more information, a good resource is The Complete Guide To Fasting by Jason Fung, M.D.

–Radley Griffin MD